By the time I got home from church on Sunday, my husband and son had every bin of Christmas decor pulled from the top shelf of the garage and set on the living room floor.

I was touched. Normally, I sort of sneak everything down while Saul is at work. My husband then comes home and good-naturedly rolls his eyes, saying something like, “Are we doing this already?” That’s just the way it goes. Every year.

But not this year. This year, Saul was all in.

It’s possible he was on board because he knew the SS Early Decorating ship was going to sail with or without him, but I don’t think so. I think deep in both of our hearts is a longing to move as far away from our summer with breast cancer as possible. Been there, done that. Cancer? Oh, that was AGES ago!

I used to hate Christmas. Actually I hated all holidays. Loathed. I would walk around looking like someone stole my dog for at least a week before Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even my birthday (yes, I do realize that my birthday only counts as a holiday in my own mind).

My parents divorced when I was in third grade. The next several years were pretty tough financially and certainly emotionally for both of my mother and my father. The entire family went into survival mode. And people in survival mode generally don’t do much celebrating.

It shouldn’t have matter to me that there weren’t goo-gobs of gifts under the tree, but I was nine. Right or wrong, it mattered. I remember wrapping empty boxes and setting them on the floor to create the illusion of opulence.

I figured out at a young age how to make everything look good, but I could never figure out how to be two places at once; that’s what really hurt. If I was with my dad on Christmas Day, that meant my mom was alone. If I was carving an Easter ham with my mom, I was wondering how my dad was doing.

That’s a lot of pressure for a kid.

I’d love to say we eventually came up with the perfect solution, but as with many of the rough spots in life, they can only be buffed out by time.

I took my garbage bag full of holiday emotions into my marriage, but little by little I emptied it out by the curb. Saul would remind me that we had the chance to start again by creating new traditions with our own kids, and that new memories would replace most of the old.

So, we decorate on the first day of November. The Halloween candy isn’t even gone, and the candy canes are already on the tree. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you happen to drive by my house and see lights twinkling, let it be your reminder that God can clean up even the most bitter of hearts.